As much as I like my iPhone, it’s quite a sad diagram, as it shows a total stagnation in device development in both function and style. Yes the software on the RAZR sucked, and the nGage was a joke, but at least people tried different things.
The interesting question this begs in my mind is whether the basic design concepts of the iPhone should be patentable. We had something similar in 2001 with a Compaq iPaq (interesting name) running a thin client for the AT&T Labs Cambridge broadband phone project so there was clerly prior art, and to run that software on that device was really fairly obvious to us. Apple clearly had the resources and commitment to change what people want, and I think it is fair to assume that they’ve made a huge profit now. 17 years feels like a long time.
The legal stand off the world currently has where it appears you can make a functionally equivalent device as long as there are enough design differences to avoid confusing customers, and as long as you prepared to have many of your senior people tied up in court and deal with the occasional business disruption, seems a bit inelegant to me but at least has prevented Apple from having a monopoly on what they have persuaded people they want.